Gordon Solie… Something Left Behind is a unique book in many ways. It’s the product of a loved and respected icon of the wrestling business; but more importantly, its very existence is the result of perseverance and determination.
Pam Allyn, Solie’s daughter from his first marriage, and her husband of 33 years, Bob, are the architects behind Something Left Behind. Their story is just as compelling as the poetry and prose of Solie in the posthumous tribute to the legendary wrestling announcer, who worked for Championship Wrestling from Florida, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Continental Championship Wrestling and even WCW.
Following Solie’s death on July 29, 2000, from cancer, Pam was left with her father’s writings from the estate. They had talked in the past about getting his writings out there, and in 1997, Solie came close to having his work published, but had to shelve the project when his second wife, Smokey, fell ill. “This is what he wanted. He kind of gave me some guidelines, but his overall thought was, ‘You’ll know what to do with them,” Pam told SLAM! Wrestling. “He wanted his prose out there. He wrote on everything: ceramic tiles, napkins, legal pads. It was just amazing. He’d stuff them in his pockets and leave them there. In the bathroom, he’d write on the tiles on the wall. He was just everywhere with it.”
When Pam and Bob decided to go ahead with the book, they had no idea what faced them. Right after Gordon died, Pam and Bob’s daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and her husband was injured and couldn’t work either, with four mouths to feed as well. Then Bob injured his neck, and was unable to work for 2-1/2 years. “It was financially and physically a difficult three years,” said Bob. “I’m not complaining. My wife and I got closer in the last three years than we’ve ever been.”
Fortunately, Bob was able to sort papers and make phone calls at home. Gordon wasn’t an especially organized person, though he did keep mounds of materials from his life, from his time in the army, broadcasting, and hosting stock car and wrestling events. “You would open up a file folder, and there might be 20 newspaper stories folded up in there; some were on racing, some were on wrestling. It took a long time,” explained Bob, who worked in sales and air purification. “I’m an organized working guy. That served its purpose. Pam kept teaching school and I researched and organized stuff in the daytime, and she worked on it at night, weekends and holidays. That was our life for about three years.”
They pitched the project to a few different companies, but it was Florida Media Inc., primarily a magazine publisher with Florida Monthly, that signed on. “We are very selective about book projects we take. The Solie book appealed because of Gordon’s historical contributions to Florida, his name recognition and the exceptional content. These three factors led us to conclude this was a no-brainer. We felt his book would be a match with the demographics of at least two of our magazines,” said the book’s editor E Douglas Cifers.
For Pam, it is a special book that brings the inner thoughts of her father to the public for the first time. “I can hear him talking in those stories,” she said, zeroing in on the short story that alludes to Solie’s divorce from her mother in 1960, Big Daddy Takes A Walk; “That’s about my family.” After the divorce, Pam — who was nine — and her brother moved with their mother to Illinois. Reunited as a young adult with her father in Florida, Pam and her new husband would move to the Sunshine State to raise their own family. Never particularly close to Gordon’s second family — wife Smokey and three children — Pam and her brother were seemingly part of a previous life for the “Dean of Wrestling Announcers.”
Something Left Behind is arranged somewhat chronologically, and the Allyns did their best to match up the writings with the sections and photos in the book. Stories on racing go with the photos and details of Solie’s life as a stock car announcer; the section “Head Shots” uses great old publicity stills from the grapplers, mixed in with personal, close-up writing from Solie.
As a special education teacher and a crusader trying to help turn kids onto reading, Pam has used some of her father’s stories in class. For the last four years, she has used the Terrible Ted story. “I use that as a vivid. I don’t tell them that Ted is a bear. I make them draw a picture of what Ted is, because they just think he’s a wrestler up until the point I show them the picture of the bear.”
What Pam doesn’t refer to that often is the first book on Gordon Solie, a small paperback entitled Master Of The Ring, which came out in 1984 from North River Press. Long out of print (and going for over $100 on used book sites), Pam said that her father worked with the publisher as a favor. It’s more of an interview book, talking to Gordon, learning more about his background, his likes and dislikes, and where he got his start. “On the book that he gave to me, it says, ‘Pam, I hope this doesn’t embarrass you,'” she chuckled.
Both Bob and Pam are quick to thank the countless people who came forward to help, from photographers and researchers to the various wrestlers like Brian Blair, Jack Brisco and Sir Oliver Humperdink who were a big part of the Florida scene over the years. At the top of their list is Dotty Curtis, wife of former wrestler and Jacksonville promoter Don Curtis, who has been like a second mother to Pam.
“The one thing from people out there that was just overwhelming, and the one thing that I learned about Gordon through this whole thing — looking at the industry through his eyes — was that he was a great teacher,” said Bob, who now runs Gordon Solie Enterprises. The couple heard time and again that Gordon had put his faith in people when nobody else would, and was confident enough in his stature to offer help to up-and-comers like Mike Tenay in WCW. (“You’re thinking of my mentor in the wrestling business, ‘The Dean’ Gordon Solie,” wrote Tenay in an online column. “He was incredibly helpful to me when I joined WCW in the early 1990s.”)
The memories she has heard of her father have left Pam overwhelmed and teary-eyed on occasion. Particularly moving was the WrestleReunion at the end of January, where the book first went on sale (and arriving into Pam and Bob’s hands for the first time as well).
“Dad loved what he did, he absolutely loved it,” said Pam. Gordon Solie was a determined man, who lived life in his own way. After Smokey died, and his own health started to fade, Solie refused his offspring’s attempts to have him move into their own homes or into a nursing home. “The day before he died, he drove himself to lunch. That’s just the way he was.”
Gordon always went to the same watering hole for lunch, and loved playing the trivia game. Bob shared one last tale of the lasting legacy of Gordon Solie. “We walked in about a year later after he died, we went to the same place. Pam clicked in his name. You should have heard some of the people there. ‘Oh no, he hasn’t come back to play the game again!’ We were cracking up because it was a joke on the locals there. They came over and hugged us.”
Gordon Solie… Something Left Behind is only available online at the moment, and the Allyns expect it to eventually make its way to bookstores.